We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.

Written By
Published Aug 26, 2022 10:00 AM

SureFire flashlights are considered the gold standard in tactical illumination, a reputation hard-earned through decades of product innovation, high standards, made-in-America pride, and many, many military and law enforcement contracts. While the California-based company pioneered laser sights, SureFire really found its niche in the mid-1980s with weapons lights and later flashlights. Although the market today is flooded with products, SureFire remains one of the top names in tactical flashlights.

For this guide, we scoured SureFire’s extensive catalog to find the options that represent the best in their respective classes, and which are still extremely relevant in the fields of EDC, military, and law enforcement use. Our list of the best SureFire flashlights shows that this legendary brand is here to stay.

High-output flashlights are great, but they have a habit of getting hot, running down your battery, and sometimes being too bright for a particular situation, which furthers the first two points. The SureFire Intellibeam seeks to fix this by incorporating a light sensor that adjusts the output power of the light by sensing the ambient light level and decreasing it if there’s light being shined back at the user, either from another light or from reflections. By doing this, SureFire has attempted to remediate the issue that many users face when using high-power flashlights in tactical environments, where backscatter from white walls or reflected light from mirrors can dazzle them.

The biggest feature of the Fury Intellibeam is that it’s a SureFire handheld flashlight that knows how bright it needs to be. The Intellibeam system works as advertised, dimming the beam when I shined it against the plaster interior walls of my house or into the mirror in the bathroom. The Fury Intellibeam also can use either 18650 or CR123 batteries, meaning that if your rechargeable battery runs down, you can swap in some CR123s while it recharges. Finally, the light output is good, although if you want to take advantage of the full 1,500 lumens, you’ll have to use the manual override mode, since the Intellibeam mode doesn’t seem to think that it’s ever necessary, even when your eyes are telling you differently.

The Intellibeam’s eye-saving auto-brightness mode is great when you’re trying to not flash yourself in the face by accident, but it sucks for clearing so-called “photonic barriers,” aka ambient light sources between you and the target that block visibility. The Intellibeam mode will perceive these sources as ambient light, and throttle the brightness down, meaning that to actually get visibility outside of close quarters environments or to penetrate photonic barriers, you’ll need to manually override the Intellibeam mode, which is not the primary operating mode. Another issue is that the 18650 battery is necessary to fully harness the brightness of this flashlight, and CR123s doesn’t fully power it. Finally, this light is too large for EDC use, unless you live in cargo pants, and seems to be aimed more at the law enforcement market.

Product Specs
  • Output power: 50-1,500 lumens
  • Power source: 18650 battery
  • Switches: Single thumb switch
  • Output modes: Intellibeam, high only
Why It Made The Cut
  • The Fury Intellibeam is a capable full-size tactical flashlight that knows when to lower or increase brightness, and which can use two kinds of batteries for more flexibility.
PROS

Adaptable brightness

Dual fuel

Good light output

CONS

Too large for EDC use

Adaptive brightness can be fooled

Loss of candela using CR123s

Best Budget

SureFire as a brand usually requires that prospective buyers pony up hundreds of dollars for the privilege of owning one of its tactical flashlights. The rock-solid durability, stable output, and outstanding finishing that you get in a SureFire product come at a cost, and that cost is usually high. However, for the budget-minded user, there is an option, and it’s not a keychain light. This is a full-size tactical flashlight that’s as worthy as any on this list, and for the price, it can’t be beaten.

The biggest advantage of the G2X pro is that it’s every bit a SureFire for a great price. This thing is affordable, at less than $100 in most places, and it hasn’t skipped in the durability department, with the G2X being made of aluminum and featuring the same bombproof LEDs that we’ve come to expect from SureFire. The G2X also has switchable output modes, offering a 15-lumen low power mode that’s great for close examination or reading in low light without blinding yourself.

The top-end brightness of this is 600 lumens, which is frankly not impressive when compared to a lot of other lights on this list. The Fury Intellibeam has 1,500, and the Stiletto Pro has 1,000, and this one is considerably larger than the latter. While this doesn’t make it a bad flashlight, many people are of the consensus that more lumens equal “better,” and that’s something that will hinder this. This flashlight also can’t use rechargeable 18650 batteries, which limits it for those who like that added convenience. Finally, like the Fury Intellibeam, this is a flashlight that is very large, and fits more as a utility flashlight than an EDC flashlight, unless you wear some dad-tier belt pouch.

Product Specs
  • Output power: 15, 600 lumens
  • Power source: CR123 batteries
  • Switches: Thumb switch
  • Output modes: Low and high
Why It Made The Cut
  • Proving that “budget” and SureFire aren’t oxymoronic, this is the best flashlight for the money, while still delivering the legendary performance expected from this brand.
PROS

Affordable

Durable

Switchable brightness

CONS

Not as bright as other options

Too large for pocket carry

Cannot use rechargeable batteries

When we first reviewed the SureFire Stiletto, one thing that was in the back of my mind was the higher-performance version, the Stiletto Pro. The Stiletto Pro is just as compact as the non-Pro version, while providing performance that legitimately is what you’d expect from much larger flashlights. This makes the Stiletto Pro one of the best flashlights for self-defense owing to its manageable profile and rock-solid durability.

The Stiletto Pro differs from its little sibling by offering improved build materials, in this case, aluminum, and has actual ridges for grip, making this much more user-friendly in stressful environments. That doesn’t mean that it’s not pocket-friendly, however, since it has the same flattened profile as the less powerful variant, which is a welcome change for those who intend to pocket-carry this. The maximum output on this is ultra-bright, being a full 1,000 lumens, which is what many people consider to be the threshold for a high-power flashlight. Finally, the flashlight is rechargeable with a side-mounted USB port, saving the trouble of some other lights that require you to remove rechargeable batteries first.

While the Stiletto Pro is designed to be pocket-friendly, one of my biggest issues with it is the orientation of the pocket clip. This light has a pocket clip that carries the light lens-up, which is great if you want to clip your flashlight onto the brim of your hat to use as an impromptu headlamp, or onto the shoulder strap of a vest, but is less nice when you’re worried about the light accidentally going off in your pocket if you bump into something while moving around. While there’s an option for programming in which light mode gets activated first when you use the switch on the side, I never bothered with it, as it’s far too much effort to go through, and I mostly used the tactical thumb switch on the back anyway.

Finally, there’s no way to replace the battery inside, so barring sending it into Safariland (if they accept that), there’s no way to alleviate a battery that’s stopped carrying a charge, which is a common issue with rechargeable batteries over time.

Product Specs
  • Output power: 25, 300, 1,000 lumens
  • Power source: Internal rechargeable battery
  • Switches: Mode cycle switch, lock switch, high power switch
  • Output modes: Safe, low, medium, high
Why It Made The Cut
  • A pocket-friendly flashlight meant for the EDC enthusiast, the SureFire Stiletto Pro is a 1,000-lumen upgrade to the original coffin-shaped SureFire pocket light.
PROS

Pocket-friendly

Ultra bright

Rechargeable

CONS

Lens-up carry causes issues

Complex programming

Can only use internal battery

Best for Self-Defense

The SureFire X300 is arguably the gold standard in pistol-mounted lights, and I’ve personally used the X300 Ultra on my Beretta M9A3. When SureFire released the Turbo model, uninitiated buyers saw that it had fewer lumens, but that’s not the goal, given that this focuses on candela, which is the brightness of the light in a single direction. The goal of this weapon light is to provide a beam that can be used for target discernment dozens of meters away, making this a great option for people who rely on their handgun as their primary weapon.

The X300 Turbo focuses on the throw distance of the beam, seeking to defeat photonic barriers that are very common in defensive environments where many people rely on their handguns. The beam is tighter, and the “hot spot,” or the central brightest point of the beam, reaches out past 70 meters, or most of a football field, even with lots of ambient light. The tight beam also only illuminates the target, which many people prefer over a broader beam, myself included.

The tighter beam has the side effect of limiting your peripheral vision in close-in situations, at least according to some people. The biggest issue with the Turbo, however, is that many people view it as a bit late to the party. Tight beam, high candela pistol lights have become more common, and SureFire has only just now showed up with their own addition to a field that also contains lights with more candela and more than double the lumens than the Turbo. This light only has 500 lumens, and while lumens aren’t everything, many people will dismiss this out of hand for that alone.

Product Specs
  • Output power: 500 lumens
  • Power source: CR123 batteries
  • Switches: Momentary and constant on
  • Output modes: Full power
Why It Made The Cut
  • A long-casting pistol-mounted flashlight, this is designed for the person who relies on their handgun as their primary weapon.
PROS

Long throw beam

Fits most X300 holsters

Tight beam only illuminates target

CONS

Lower lumen output

Tight beam may reduce peripheral vision at longer ranges

Somewhat late to the game

Best Military

The SureFire Scout light is a very significant entry in the field of weapon-mounted flashlights, introducing a lot of the features that modern shooters have come to accept as normal in weapon lights. The ability for a compact flashlight to change the tail cap switch, the ability to change the batteries without taking the tail cap off the weapon, and the ability to select different types of mounts for different kinds of accessory rails all began with the Scout Light. The V, or “Vampire,” version allows the user to switch to infrared on the fly, meaning that this makes a great illuminator for use with night vision.

SureFire lights are known for their durability above all else, being regarded as essentially bombproof. They’ve been the industry standard for long enough to where you can not only buy aftermarket mounts and switches, but also entire new bulb heads for higher output, meaning that if you don’t need the infrared capability for certain applications, you can go to white light only. The dual visibility modes of this light not only mean that it’s a great supplement to your PEQ or other IR laser pointer or illuminator, but it can also be affixed to your helmet and aimed upward. That means when you’re in a zero-light environment when inside a structure, you can use it as an “umbrella light” that shines up and scatters IR light off the ceiling.

The white light output of the Vampire head scout lights like the M640V is 350 lumens. When you compare that to options that cost less and which have outputs well over 1,000 lumens, some people will once again dismiss the SureFire option out of hand. The other issue is that for most people in the military, a weapon-mounted light has limited use unless you anticipate moving through tight quarters, and you’ll likely be issued a weapon light if your job requires a lot of close-quarters battle. Finally, while the aftermarket for SureFire scout lights is extensive, most of the quality options are expensive, which can cause the cost of your weapon light setup to balloon.

Product Specs
  • Output power: 350 lumens visible, 120mw IR
  • Power source: CR123 batteries
  • Switches: Off/on switch, visible/off/IR selector head
  • Output modes: Visible/IR selectable
Why It Made The Cut
  • This dual mode rifle light works well with the naked eye and under night vision for close quarters use.
PROS

Durable

Dual visibility modes

Lots of aftermarket support

CONS

Lower output than equivalent models

Limited usefulness in a military setting

Expensive accessories

Things to consider before buying a SureFire flashlight

Lumen output

Lumens are the raw output of a light, and measure the total photonic energy that the bulb produces. Lights that produce 1,000 lumens are not uncommon, and in general, more lumens are considered better. However, this does not measure the beam shape, which can be a factor in light performance.

Candela

Candela is the measure of light in a particular direction. Lights with tighter beams and a brighter “hot spot” in the center of the beam generally have higher candela counts, and this can greatly improve long-distance illumination. Lights with 45,000 candelas or more are generally capable at long distances, like the X300 Turbo.

Battery power

Most SureFire lights on this list can use CR123A batteries, to the point that some people call them “SureFire batteries.” Many of them also use rechargeable batteries like SF18650B batteries, which can be recharged and reused, making them a more eco-friendly option. Additionally, the 18650s often provide better output power, versus CR123s.

FAQs about SureFire flashlights

Q: Are SureFire flashlights worth it?

A: SureFire lights are costly because they’re made in the U.S. and are generally extremely durable, but they are also very comfortable in their place as a household name. They feature the characteristics that you want, like output, power source, aftermarket support, and form factor. They’re quality lights, but there’s a lot to choose from these days.

Q: Is SureFire better than Streamlight?

A: In some ways, yes. SureFire uses more durable, but also more expensive, production methods than equivalent Streamlight lights, but it’s possible to get similar output and operating reliability from a Streamlight. In general, SureFires will be more durable, but non-professional users may not appreciate the improved durability and reliability.

Q: Why are SureFire flashlights so expensive?

A: SureFire lights use expensive production techniques like milling light bodies from a single block of aluminum, are generally good about water resistance, and are usually made in the U.S.A. or countries with good labor laws. Additionally, SureFire has many government contracts, so most of the people who use SureFire products professionally, like their lights, lasers, and suppressors, don’t pay for them, and their supply shops don’t pay the same price that consumers do.

Q: How many lumens do you need for self-defense?

A: As many as possible. At close range, using a powerful light with more than 1,000 lumens will have your opponent quoting that one Manfred Mann song where it sounds like he says “douche” a lot as you draw on them.

Final thoughts

SureFire is in a weird place as a company. While it’s arguably THE name in tactical flashlights, it now occupies a market that’s saturated by competitors who often are very capable of competing with these high-price offerings, often for less. SureFire still holds its own though, continuing to produce tactical lights for military and law enforcement. Things may be unsure for SureFire in the eyes of the public, but it’s showing no signs of quitting anytime soon.

Methodology 

For the purposes of this article, we tested every option on this list or interviewed people who are regular users of these SureFire flashlights. All of these were selected not just based on how well they performed for us, but also on their general reputation within the shooting enthusiast, military, and law enforcement communities. Finally, these were selected based on the needs of the readers who suggested this article to us and were specifically chosen based on the questions that I received when preparing this article. Learn more about our process by reading the Task & Purpose review guidelines